Mining Versus the Tribes

Soon to follow the friction between miners and this area’s indigenous population was more friction between the two groups on the Klamath area in January 1855. Miners there began to desert their claims and rally on the camps for protection, while the tribe moved its families to the mountains.

At a January 6th mass meeting at Orleans Bar, the incoming population decided to disarm the tribes and take action against whites they suspected of or found guilty of selling the tribes arms. Although many of the Indians complied, a few refused and prepared to resist.

Led by the Red Caps, they made their plans, but did not strike the first blow. That was done by the whites, who burned several rancherias and “committing outrages” on the women of the tribes, and the powder keg was lighted.

Whites called for help, and Captain Buchanan at Fort Humboldt organized a volunteer company in Trinidad and began attacking the peaceful Klamath Indians who had been living peacefully with the encroaching whites. Buchanan ordered out a company led by Capt. H.M. Judah, who began negotiating with the Indians when he reached Weitchpec.

The local Yurok then offered to help suppress the Red Caps, but the miners would not agree to their offer. Judah was close to a settlement when Capt. Buchanan recalled him.

At about that time, Special Indian Agent for the County of Siskiyou, A.M. Rosborough reached Weitchpec to assess the situation. Sensing it was critical — Yurok on the rancherias, the Red Caps in the mountains and a serious threat that minors would attack the peaceful Indians if the Red Caps killed any packers.

The volunteers had unsuccessfully sought the Red Caps during their one patrol into the mountains.Weitchpec was critical to the pack trains supplying the miners, so a company of regulars was permanently posted there in the Hoopa Valley.

Nothing less than “the prosperity of that part of the state,” was at stake. Relaying details to his boss, Commissioner of Indian Affairs G.W. Montgomery, Henley told of his conviction that the miners were poised to massacre the Indians.

In the hope of holding off the tragedy, S.G. Whipple was named as Special Agent for Klamath County. Rosborough worried as the uneasy situation continued that it would be impossible for the law-abiding whites to maintain their control over the camps.

He feared that any more killings by the Red Caps would lead to attacks on the rancherias and mass exodus of the peaceful Indians into the mountains. At the same time, no one could locate the 40-50 Red Caps who remained at large.

Judah pleaded to Buchanan to order a company of infantry to Weitchpec and at least establish law on the Klamath, but Buchanan would not budge on his own initiative and ordered Judah to Oregon. Rosborough, in turn, begged for a company of soldiers and a deputy marshal, believing that if an officer of the law was in Klamath and could enforce and arrest offending participants the lawlessness would be curbed.

The Yurok offered to help find the Red Caps, but were disarmed instead by the miners. Rosborough organized more volunteer companies to war with the Red Caps and the inevitable happened.

Guides leading one of the units led them into an ambush. Although no lives were lost, marshals condemned 26 Indians to death, captured a number of others and burned two villages.

Judah, returning to Klamath, was told to help Whipple find a site for an Indian Reservation. The atrocities, perpetrated by the whites, continued.

Judah hoped that fears resulting from the volunteers’ deeds would abate. He traveled down the Klamath hoping to meet with the Indians who wanted peace, but found the camps empty.

In his stead, two of the Indians accompanying Judah traveled farther, returning with about 50 Yurok who shared to goal of peace. Following a council attended by representatives of most of the tribes, he agreed to form a war party, arm the Indians and hunt down eight Red Caps and execute them.

They would also urge the Indians they found on the way to turn themselves in while a reservation was formed Although Whipple found a site he thought would make a good place for the reservation, he was also causing problems for Judah and others. The troops remained on the Klamath as Whipple talked to the Indians there about the reservations plan.

The plan was to follow through, locating the reservation on the Klamath. Congress had already passed an appropriation to fund five reservations in California.  U.S. President Franklin Pierce signed off on the agreement, issuing an order November 16, 1855, to establish the reservation on a piece of land one mile wide on either side of the Klamath that ran for 20 miles — roughly 25,000 acres.


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